Since I'm usually blunt with my words, and I'm going on a limb and writing a post that could potentially damage my career, at first I thought about writing this post speaking about Jennifer Lawrence
in third person, taking some distance from her and her recent declarations, in her by now infamous text, 'why
am I making less than my male co-stars?'
However, after sleeping on it, I realised the world's best paid actress and I have got a lot of things in common, so I'd rather address her directly. First, we're roughly the same age. Second, we're
both in the same or similar industry. Third, we're considered to be likeable people -even if only by my circles as opposed to a myriad of fanclubs. Fourth, we both realised being likeable and mild
all the time doesn't get you the farthest. Fifth, we seem to like speaking up.
There would be a sixth, Jennifer, if only I thought those third and fourth had anything to do with gender.
I've backed and supported social causes in the past, and do not feel shy about doing it again. But I need a solid claim. I need facts, data, context, second guessing, critical analysis, digging.
Something to get behind. Personally, I think both your claims and Emma Watson's lack that. Let's stick to yours in this occasion. Now I'm sure there's plenty of data around that proves or
disproves sexism in Hollywood, but I find difficult to believe that your situation has anything to do with it.
Being a freelancer and someone who's lived in two different economic environments, I think I'm getting the grasp of how money works on a basic negotiation level, at least in the freelancing world.
Here it goes: *clears throat*
There's three translucent layers to every professional. From the bottom upwards, they're Value, Perception and Negotiation.
That's the order in which we see them because we see them from below. However, employers and clients look at them from above, so they see Negotiation, then Perception and then Value. Perception
is partly obscured since Negotiation is on top, and Value is hardly visible at all, being the inferior layer.
We live in capitalism, whether it's in Spain, The United Kingdom, or in the USA. In this economical system, not everyone gets paid the same. The criteria we follow on how much everyone should be paid
is something we're still discussing both in a global economy and in each separate country. Some of the criteria could be: toughness of the job, skills needed, grade of responsibility, schedules,
working hours, potential or explicit danger, social value, and so on. The value we and the economy give to these different items is what makes you, Jennifer, being paid in millions, while doctors and
teachers get paid in thousands. This is Value. In this sytem, even in the same role, two professionals can be paid differently.
Because there's more layers to all this, like Perception. It's not enough to have Value, we have to be perceived to have it. It's no use in being the best actress for a role if no one
Taking in account Value and Perception, we make a number in our head, and head to Negotiation. The client however, will hardly know our real Value because he hasn't spent a lifetime with us, getting
to know us. They will check their Perception about us, and will use that to work out a number in their head. Even if their Perception is accurate, they will defend their number while we defend ours,
and that can get incommodious already, since the numbers could be well different already. Sometimes, their Perception is not so accurate, or we have screwed up building a boring online portfolio or
choosing the previous two movies, so the number they came up with is way lower than what we think we're worth. In these occasions, which happen quite often, we have to change someone's Perception to
match our Value. And even if we achieve so, the numbers could still be different, and all of a sudden we got ourselves tangled up into an arm wrestling game with the person in front of us, with
scorpions scattered around the table.
And that's supposing both parties are nice people that look for the common benefit and understanding, which is assuming quite a lot.
Negotiating is HARD.
So hard, in fact, that that's at what most people fail at. You considered this could be your case. It sometimes takes years for freelancers and artists to make ends meet just with their gigs. And
from what I see, more often than not, it's because their Negotiation is the weakest point of their professional persona, while their Value and even Perception have been immaculate for years. I've
seen this pattern replicated many times, indifferently in both men and women.
So hard, in fact, that some people hate to do it. They get nervous, anxious even, they feel they're plain bad at it. And there's several reasons for that: some people find in those numbers
they're wrestling for their only way to buy food or afford rent. Some other people find the negotiation aggressive and their character is simply adverse. Some other people have trouble communicating
their Value and turning it into Perception. Some other people don't want to be unlikable *wink wink*. I've personally found myself in all these situations. So, like other professionals, I had to take
Should I get an agent and skip all the headache? Should I learn yet another craft, on top of accounting, marketing and my core skillset, and keep all the profits to myself? Should I join a Union in
favour of a blanket payscale for all workers, so even if I'm not paid to the top of my game, at least I'm contempt knowing I got paid as much as the next guy (or girl)? Do I push for more profits? To
the point of being unlikable? To the point of being downright nasty?
You gave up early on the negotiation. Like I used to do not long ago. Because you're young, and so am I. Because we ALL start giving up early on the negotiation. We want to get our name out there, we
want to be likeable, we think we can rely solely on our passion and good will, because we've all have been cottoned until adulthood. Because, in short, we're simply inexperienced.
Or, in your particular case, because you don't need that money, which is a perfectly valid reason.
The most successful professional I've met said "I'm a shark during negotiations, even if it is an unpleasant moment, but when I turn up for the gig I make sure I'm the nicest to everybody". That's
one way of working it out. I'm still figuring how to exactly work it out myself, but I'm getting close. It looks, Jen, that you just started working it out. Good for you. At around my age, by
the way. I'm a man. You're a woman. But that hasn't mattered, because Negotiation is so hard it levels men and women, supposing they started on a different level to begin with, which I have trouble
Because that's another point I want to make. The What The Heck point. As in, What The Heck, Jennifer? Why would ANYONE not want to be likeable? Being likeable kept us alive inside a warm cave as
opposed to otherwise inside sabre tooth tigers outside. It kept us in the cool kids circles in school as opposed to be labelled as the class outcasts. It keeps us from being depressed. It
keeps us bonded. It defines us as a species. It makes your fans put together YouTube compilations of your best interviews, and it makes my friends crack at my jokes. And it makes some of my clients
keep ringing back. But we sometimes have to grow out of all that, because not always being likeable is the answer, and sometimes clients will try to abuse us. Not always this economy and the Real
World matches what we are at core. And we have body pains, ALL of us, because it simply doesn't come naturally. We have to force it. Dominate it. Choose our battles. Men and women alike.
I recently lauded a fellow sound professional for landing a really good contract. Acknowledging my thumbs up, he contacted me privately and recommended me to read a book about negotiation, available
on Amazon. Changed his life, apparently. The book is 178 pages long. 178 PAGES LONG, JENNIFER. 178 pages I most possibly will have to read if I ever want to land such good contracts.
Because I had the skills to do that job, but not the skills to land such a contract, little it mattered that I'm a man.
Couldn't that be the case of your male co-stars in American Hustle? Maybe they read that book. Maybe they read 5 of them. Maybe they could write it themselves. Bradley Cooper has been doing stuff
since you were ten, and Christian Bale since before you were born. Surely they picked up the art of Negotiation along the way, so that could be one of the reasons they were paid more. I don't know
much about Bradley, but Christian Bale had problems with stardom after The Empire of The Sun, so maybe he was acquainted to the idea of not being entirely likable early on on his career, literally
before you or I were born.
Have you considered all those possibilities before relating your issue to feminism? Because there may be a valid claim in there that just needs to be unearthed. But so far, when so many other
possibilities haven't been discarded, I simply cannot support you.
I too played the blame game. I perceived one my peers as being more succesful than me. I blamed her being a native and me being an immigrant. I felt sorry for myself and angry at my adoptive country.
I talked to her, and quickly found out she kicks my butt at negotiating. I learned some good tips from her. Note I said "Her".
I thank Odin I didn't speak publicly about "racism", because I now know that's not what it was, and I would've made a fool of myself. And what is worse, I would've made a fool of the serious
issue racism is. And since then on, I've been really careful not to be too hasty to relate my luck to a social issue, because it may look like I'm cynically taking advantage of it, and
I would do more harm than good.
I simply think you may have been too hasty, and that, in fact, you're not a victim of sexism. You're a victim of the economy, like most of us are.
Only, in this economy, I personally don't label as "victims" people who count their salary in millions. I wonder how much made the lowest paid person on set to compensate the 41% of the
profits you five stars blackholed. Or 47%, if you and Amy were paid as much as the rest.